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Popular Chester toy shop forced to downsize

Published on: 29th August 2017

Owner of city centre toy shop blames ‘perfect storm’ of issues for decision to close half her premises.

Toycraft, on Watergate Street, has been trading for more than 50 years but owner Beverley Lucas claims the only option to secure any kind of future for the business was to reduce from the two neighbouring units it previously occupied to one. Shoppers will have noticed that the number 33 unit has been screened off from the street for a number of weeks, and all the stock is now confined in number 35 Watergate Street.

Beverley commented : “It’s probably been coming for the past three years, there has been a noticeable drop off in custom and last Christmas was very poor. In fact, we noticed a huge drop-off at Christmas and in our business, if you don’t have a good Christmas you have to make some changes. By March it still wasn’t picking up and that’s when I knew we really had to do something.”

With business rates of £27,000 a year, and rent in excess of £30,000, the business couldn’t sustain itself when the ‘perfect storm’ of the bus station closure, parking issues, a similar toy shop opening nearby and an increase in race days hit trading conditions. Beverly also believes the increase in cafes and bars, especially in Watergate Street and the surrounding area, has slowly changed the nature of the city centre.

“We are on the main drag between town and the racecourse and the number of race meetings has increased. People don’t come into town to shop on race weekends – I’m from Chester and I wouldn’t, so I don’t blame others who don’t,” said Beverley. “It’s been a heartbreaking decision to make. With things like Amazon and other websites it becomes harder to do it each year.”

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